Sunday, August 18, 2013

How effective is the NCC Unified Development Code for bicycles?

The New Castle County Unified Development Code, under Street Standards, provides that space for a bicycle lane "shall" be included in cases requiring a right turn-only lane. As follows, under section 40.21.130, the following is found:

"Where necessary, the developer shall provide acceleration/deceleration lanes along major roads, as determined by DelDOT, as well as right- and left-turn lanes and bypass lanes, depending on local conditions and the amount of traffic generated by the proposed development. Where such lanes are required, they shall be at the expense of the developer. Acceleration, deceleration, bypass, and right-turn lanes shall include space for bicycle lanes, as required by DelDOT."

Yet, it is not hard to find an example where this bicycle safety provision was lost or removed in newly drafted or updated redevelopment plans, even though the New Castle County Unified Development Code under Street Standards says it "shall" be included.

Below are 4 examples where I believe this requirement was disregarded because of a breakdown during the approval process, or, there were circumstances preventing its full or even partial implementation as required in the county code.

Above: Main entrance to the "Traditions at Chistiana" housing development off Chapman Road, Newark. According to an unnamed source at DelDOT, the need for a Right Turn-Only Lane (RTOL) became apparent after the first phase of the development was completed, and was later added by request of residents. Therefore, because the RTOL was not included in the original plans, the bike lane provision fell through the cracks.  

Above: Entrance to the Armed Forces Reserve Center on Rt.273 in Newark, a road designated on Delaware's Bicycle Map as a "regional bicycle route". New sidewalks, curbs, crosswalks, channelizing island, and "wave" style bike racks were installed. However, for reasons unknown, the bike lane provision was omitted. 

Above: Rt.4 entrance to the Delaware School for the Deaf, completed in 2011. This road has a 8' wide multi-use pathway that is also designated as the East Coast Greenway. The design and engineering that was chosen, however, render this as little more than a wide sidewalk that can have negative implications for bicyclists. Below: The condition of the asphalt is dismal at best, yet the fact that this facility exists was enough to forgo the bike lane requirement as part of DSD's final approval. Despite ample lane width on Rt.4 - a road determined to be an ideal bike lane candidate when it was reconstructed using ARRA funding in 2009 - the idea (brought forth by DelDOT Planning) fell on deaf ears.

On a personal note, I had written a blog post for Bike Delaware a couple of years ago on this same topic titled "Should Side Paths Trump Mandatory Bike Lane Requirements?" that was mysteriously deleted at some point after leaving my position on their board.

Above: The rebuilt entrance/exit to a newly renovated 4 Seasons Plaza in Glasgow, off of Rt.896, which will contain a Shop Rite Super Center. According to DelDOT, it is a pre-existing entrance, so the developer was not required to make any changes. However, it was requested that the pedestrian access facilities be brought up to standard, and the developer agreed to pay for it. While this is certainly welcome and likely spurred by concerns over the American Disabilities Act (ADA), it is with great shame that the "Street Standards" section under NCC code 40.21.130 is viewed as having little to no value, despite the fact that this area sees plenty of  bicyclists and pedestrians passing by or entering the shopping center. For those riding past the entrance, the risk of being "right hooked" is especially high.

Above: Kirkwood Highway at Harmony Road, the site of a new WaWa Super Store where NCC Code was met and bike lanes installed. However, as the cyclist in the distance is about to demonstrate, one is forced to move out into the high speed lane to avoid a traffic channelizing island (aka Pork Chop) before entering the properly designed bike lane. This came as quite a surprise, since DelDOT policy requires a 5' offset (4' in exceptional cases) between these islands and the white edge/shoulder line through intersections. DelDOT was notified via email on May 22, and agreed the island configuration is incorrect and will work on a mechanism to get it adjusted. However, no time frame was given.
Poster's Note: In summary, the above examples clearly illustrate that road advocacy must remain a top priority in our state. It is not my intention to blame DelDOT, New Castle Country, or anyone else involved in the development approval process that have led to these failures. But it is my opinion that road advocacy has taken a back seat to the interests surrounding Trails and Pathways, and the notion of reducing the amount of bicyclists on the roads. That said, I acknowledge that these agencies have performed some excellent work in other areas and projects. I appreciate their efforts, and I will continue to highlight these positive examples as well in the coming weeks and months.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Frank. Policies mean squat if the final design fails in the end. We see this in Jersey all the time. Oddly enough bike facilities here in the West are fantastic and were probably built without convoluted policies and processes.


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